Zayed University’s Academic Bridge Program (ABP) has developed an exciting and innovative vocabulary learning app in collaboration withits Centre for Educational Innovation (CEI).The Academic Vocabulary App (AVA) has been successfully piloted by ABP teachers and specifically targetsgeneral academic words for Arabic learners. Students now have this app on their mobile devices and can practicethe vocabulary they need for university study any place, any time and on any device.It also boasts elements of gamification to make it more fun and enjoyable to use.ABP students work independently on the various activities of the app in their own time and take regular quizzes to re-inforce learning. There are 600 word families in total while the app’s in-built gaming motivates the students by letting them score points and even enables them to compete against other classes and levels.“Developing a language learning app allows us to leverage the huge potential of mobile learning since university students possess a range of devices including smartphones and hand-held computers and spend extended periods of time outside the traditional classroom using them,”Wayne Jones, Director of the ABP, said.
In fact, the AVAcould well be the first such vocab app of its kind to include Arabic translations tailored specifically to Emiratis. Topics and graphics were also carefully chosen to be appealing and relevant to Zayed University students.The content is based on the most up-to-date, frequency-based word lists helping the students learn not just aboutmeaning but also collocation, or which words go together. The app will adapt to the student’s individual level and then automatically recycle their‘weak’ words.Another novel feature of the app is that instructors can monitor student progress and give guidance and instruction where necessary.Michael Bowles,ABP Faculty, led a team of highly-experienced teachers who worked tirelessly to producethe material and Christina Davison also played a vital role as the project manager for the development of the app from the university’s Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) Department. The CEI collaborates with faculty at ZU to help implement all sorts of innovative teaching ideas. “On the AVA project, I worked with a group of experienced language instructors to design, prototype and review all aspects of the app until we perfected the way they envisioned it, and then coordinated the technical resources to build it,” Davison said. “It’s really exciting to see these innovative teaching ideas come to life, and be designed specifically to support Arabic speakers learning English,” she added.
The teamof writers selected the most relevant vocabulary items and created 13 different activities for each of the 600 word families across 12 units.Suzanne Littlewood, ABP Curriculum Supervisor,pointed out that the app fits perfectly into the new academic English focus of the curriculum. “The app really allows the students to work at their own pace because it is adaptive.” she said.“It has also incorporated the latest pedagogical research into what makes for effective vocabulary learning, for example there is spaced repetition and recall. Combined with our extensive reading program it allows the students to meet the words again and again in different contexts in carefully sequenced learning activities.”Bowles also pointed out to research that shows that up to 72 per cent of reading performance is due to vocabulary size, so we can only assume that Zayed University students’ reading, accuracy and fluency in English will go from strength to strength helped by their new app.Next time you see a student’s eyes down on her phone it might just be because she is learning the meaning of ‘scholarship’.
About Zayed University
Zayed University is today the premier national university in the United Arab Emirates and a regional leader in educational innovation and change. It has created and implemented a skills-rich, outcome-based general education program that systemically develops student skills, knowledge, and values associated with liberal learning and provided a solid foundation for pursuit of disciplinary majors and future careers. Zayed University welcomes national and international students, and provides them with a high quality education, offered by seasoned teaching scholars to prepare them to shape the future of the United Arab Emirates.Zayed University offers Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in the following Colleges: College of Arts & Creative Enterprises (recognized as substantially equivalent by NASAD), College of Business (Accredited by AACSB), College of Communication & Media Sciences (Accredited by ACEJMC), College of Education (Accredited by NCATE), College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Natural and Health Sciences, and College of Technological Innovation (Accredited by ABET).